Cyprus president urges Turkey to help reunification talks

The president of ethnically divided Cyprus says Turkey's input will be pivotal in overcoming key obstacles preventing a reunification deal.

By: AP | Nicosia | Published:November 5, 2016 3:45 am
Cyprus peace talk, cyprus president, Cyprus turkey, reunification talks, latest news, latest world news A television crew member adjusts a microphone on the jacket of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades before a nationally televised news conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.  (Source: Yiannis Kourtoglou/Pool Photo via AP)

Turkey’s input will be pivotal in overcoming key obstacles preventing a deal to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus, the island’s president said Friday ahead of crucial talks in Switzerland next week. Nicos Anastasiades, a Greek Cypriot, says he and breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have made significant progress on numerous issues making an envisioned federation workable. Those issues include ensuring the country’s economic viability and the right of all citizens to live and work wherever they choose.

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But he said it’ll take the “resolute contribution” of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership to reach agreement on core issues such as security and how much territory either side will administer under an envisioned federal state.

Five days of intensive, UN-backed talks in the Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin will concentrate directly on territory issues. Officials say sufficient progress on this key issue would pave the way for a final summit to hammer out a comprehensive deal encompassing security matters. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend Monday’s opening session.

“This is a critical juncture in the talks and he welcomes very much the fact that the two leaders have jointly expressed their hope that this meeting will pave the way for the last phase of the talks,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York.

A Turkish invasion in 1974 following a coup aiming at union with Greece split the eastern Mediterranean island into a breakaway Turkish-speaking north and an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps more than 35,000 troops in the north.

Anastasiades said progress in the talks means both sides must produce maps showing how much territory will fall in the administrative zone of each federal state. The territorial component of a peace deal is crucial — Anastasiades said at least 100,000 Greek Cypriots must reclaim homes and property lost in the war, which would bolster support for any deal, which will be put to a vote in both communities.

Anastasiades said in a televised news conference “there’s no chance” he would accept moving onto a final phase of talks if no maps are produced. But in a separate news conference, Akinci said maps will only appear during final the phase of talks where Britain, Greece and Turkey will join discussions to tackle the difficult issue of security.

Anastasiades ruled out allowing Turkey to retain any military intervention rights in Cyprus or to keep troops on the ground after a deal, something that Turkish Cypriots insist is crucial to their security.

“A European state has no need of either guarantors or occupation troops,” Anastasiades said. “Occupation troops may offer security for one community, but certainly they create insecurity of the other community,” he said, adding that a beefed-up United Nations police force answering directly to the UN Security Council could provide ample security for both sides.

Akinci suggested such security guarantees could be abolished in time, but not before Turkish Cypriots feel assured their security isn’t compromised. The Turkish Cypriot leader said all citizens could live where they choose in a reunified island, but only a fifth of Greek Cypriots opting to live in the Turkish Cypriot-run zone would be granted voting rights there.

He said 8 billion euros ($8.87 billion) would be enough to cover the cost of an accord. “This land is enough for all of us,” Akinci said, adding, “It would be a great same if we miss this historic opportunity.”